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Type 2 diabetes accounts for 90 percent of diagnosed diabetes cases in the United States. Often referred to as adult-onset diabetes, it is a metabolic condition in which the body does not make enough insulin or respond to insulin correctly. It results in high blood sugar levels.
The use of prescription diabetes medications, along with diet and exercise, can help lower blood sugar. Patients should discuss the safest treatment options with a physician, and ask about the risks before taking a new drug.
Diet & Exercise to Control Diabetes
Maintaining a nutritious diet, regular exercise, and weight loss or weight management are essential steps in type 2 diabetes treatment. In fact, no diabetes drug claims to be a cure-all—each is recommended in addition to diet and exercise.
Those with type 2 diabetes want to avoid foods that convert easily into sugar, which means avoiding processed foods and simple carbohydrates. Instead, they should focus on eating foods that take longer to break down, like complex carbohydrates, lean proteins and vegetables.
Obesity is the biggest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. In some cases, weight loss and a low-carb diet can eliminate the need for diabetes medication. Physicians can refer patients to a nutritionist, and there are many online tools available for diabetes-specific diet and weight-loss plans.
Daily exercise, performed at moderate intensity, is one of the most powerful treatments for type 2 diabetes. Exercising speeds up metabolism by burning fatty tissues and building up lean muscle mass. Patients will need to monitor their glucose levels before, during and after exercising.
All type 2 diabetes medications are meant to lower blood sugar, though they differ in the way that this is achieved. Metformin (Glucophage, Fortamet) is an oral diabetes drug in the biguanides class, and has a long track record of success.
Metformin suppresses the liver’s production of excess glucose and improves insulin sensitivity. It is the only drug of its kind that is proven in the prevention of cardiovascular complications from type 2 diabetes and also lowers LDL and triglyceride levels.
Actos (pioglitazone) improves the body’s sensitivity to insulin, which allows the regulation of glucose levels. Unfortunately, long-term use of Actos has been shown to increase the risk of bladder cancer. Patients who experienced heart problems or bladder cancer after using Actos have filed more than 3,000 lawsuits against the drug’s manufacturer, Takeda Pharmaceuticals.
Byetta (exenatide) is a drug that mimics the function of incretin, a hormone that stimulates insulin production. Normally, incretin is broken down by DPP-4, which signals the body to stop producing insulin. Januvia (sitagliptin) and Tradjenta (linagliptin) belong to a class of drugs called DPP-4 inhibitors, which allow the incretin to continue stimulating insulin production and lower blood sugar.
Potentially fatal conditions, including acute pancreatitis and pancreatic cancer, have been reported with Januvia and Byetta use. Tradjenta’s prescribing information was updated in 2012, and listed an increased risk of pancreatitis on the list of adverse reactions.
It’s important for diabetes patients to speak with their doctor about their medication options and the safest choice for their individual situation.
Linda Grayling writes for Drugwatch.com. Linda has a number of professional interests, including keeping up with the latest developments in the medical field. Join the Drugwatch community on our Facebook page to find out more.